How do you go about building on a team that already surprised people by making the playoffs last year? You make out of character moves to improve your team. See the Oakland Athletics.
Free Agent Losses: Dallas Braden (RHP), Joey Devine (RHP), Stephen Drew (SS), Jonny Gomes (OF), Brandon Inge (3B).
Trade Losses: Yordy Cabrera (SS), Chris Carter (1B), A.J. Cole (RHP), Collin Cowgill (OF), Brad Peacock (RHP), Cliff Pennington (SS), Tyson Ross (RHP), Max Stassi (C).
Free Agent Signings: Grant Balfour (RHP, Option Exercised), Bartolo Colon (RHP), Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS).
Trade Acquisitions: John Jaso (C), Jed Lowrie (SS), Chris Young (OF).
The A’s did things a little different this off season – they traded prospects for veterans. First though, they let a few players walk.
The most notable were Drew and Gomes. While Drew was only with the team for part of the season, he was key to the drive down the stretch. The main concern for him is health, and a deal couldn’t be worked out. They were able to cover that with the additions.
Gomes was a sempi-regular in the outfield, but was squeezed out by the acquisition of Young early in the off-season. He won’t be a huge loss for the team, as they have Cespedes, Crisp, Reddick, Young, and Smith as their primary outfielders.
The trade losses look different though; I had Cabrera, Cole, Peacock and Stassi in my original Top 20 for the organization. In most years, I’d be adding new players; instead I’m taking away this year (just like I had a college player penciled in for the A’s in the draft last year and they went high schooler).
Cole is the biggest name; he would have been third on the list and projects as a mid rotation starter. Peacock could also be a mid-rotation starter, but he had a down year in Triple A; he’s got the age and ability to rebound though. Cabrera, a former first round pick, never came around like the team hoped and they were ready to cut him loose. Stassi could make the majors, but I see him a back up in the long run.
Carter was a little surprising, even though the A’s wouldn’t commit to him as a starter. He’s got power and patience, but does strike out a lot. He’s going to thrive in Houston and could have 25 homers this year. He was replaceable, as he was part of a platoon with Brandon Moss.
Ross was another surprising trade, as he had a ton of potential in the rotation; I’m figuring he was another player that I think Oakland was tired of waiting for. Playing in San Diego will be good for him; that park will make him look like a great starter.
The free agent market was pretty quiet, as expected. They brought back Colon, who pitched well enough when he wasn’t suspended for PEDs. The good news is he’s a veteran presence in a young rotation and is a nice fit as a #4-5 starter.
Nakajima could be the everyday shortstop, or he could be used at second. Either way, he’s probably more reliable than Pennington, Jemile Weeks, or any other internal option.
Bringing back Balfour was an easy decision; his option wasn’t super expensive and he was pretty reliable. The bullpen is a strong point for the team and Balfour can fit in many different roles.
The trades are where the real action came. Adding Young give the A’s a potential 30/30 guy and they’re probably hoping the change of scenery will help with that. He’s going to be the regular center fielder.
I didn’t like the Jaso trade, but it does make sense; I thought the value of Cole was not worth Jaso, but he’ll provide a veteran mentor for Derek Norris. Jaso is also a good hitter and should add a little pop to the Oakland line up. After seeing the follow up trade, I understand that Oakland trying to prove that they weren’t a fluke last year; these trades don’t cripple their system and help the team now.
Adding Lowrie was a solid move. He’s a good hitter for a traditionally weak offensive position; he’s got power and gets on base. He’s also a guy that can strike out. If he can play 150, that alone is a victory. The cost again was a little high, but if this deal works out, Billy Beane will look like a genius.
It’s well documented that the A’s don’t have the resources as the rest of the division, but they are making their push again this year. They broke their regular pattern of adding to the farm system this off-season and make a couple of risky moves; I like the fact that they are going for it. I might regret saying they had a good off-season when October comes around, but right now I like it.